Have you noticed that when I refer to fitness programs I use terms such as movement, workout, routine, regimen, training, or activities? When it comes to encouraging body movement, there’s an unhelpful stigma attached to the word, “exercise.”
And, I’m not here to be unhelpful!
I’m not a paid representative of any product or service, but I do practice what I preach. I’m passionate about sharing the positive benefits of creating a personalized fitness routine. What I have to offer is a whole lot of experience with programs that didn’t work, others that did, and a few that have continued to work for me for more than a decade.
I do know what it’s like to try and exercise
with a painful fibromyalgia body.
When I first read that exercise (there’s that awful word again) was a healing tool for dealing with chronic widespread body pain, I thought, “Who are they kidding?”
I was certain that whoever came up with that notion must NOT have fibromyalgia and must not have ever been in complete and utter pain.
Reading medical studies was my hobby at that time, and I read over and over the examples of healing (to varying degrees) achieved by those practicing a regular fitness routine. These studies focused on participants diagnosed with chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia. Of course, studies don’t prove anything, right? I also reviewed studies that were less than conclusive.
So, I did what I always do – I experimented on myself.
I first tried walking outside for a bit of movement and fresh air. Since I was using a cane at that point, and I lived in a hilly area, I quickly found that my reasons for not continuing outnumbered my reasons to continue. Usually my curiosity wins out, but not in this case. In hindsight, I can see how unfortunate this was. I didn’t stick with it long enough to really give it a good shot.
Next, I experimented with classes at a local gym and various workout DVDs at home. It’s great to have options when the weather outside is uncooperative. Eventually, I did find some great options and gained some flexibility while toning up a bit. (At this time, it’s important to note that my cane took up permanent residence in the trunk of my car.)
One of the fabulous things about working out at home with a DVD is the flexibility. You can choose, where, when, and for how long you want your fitness routine to last. As an added benefit, you can wear what you want. Don’t overlook the power of this statement. Have you ever skipped going to the gym because you didn’t feel like changing clothes and/or didn’t want to be seen in your gym clothes? I thought so. Me, too.
Of course, I’ve tried many DVDs that were too advanced for my personal fitness level. At times, I’ve been overly optimistic about my abilities and have done routines that were more than I bargained for.
Seriously? Going from a fibro body to sculpted abs in a day? Guilty as charged. (My disclaimer here is that my sis and I tried this together. When she later told me she’d barely been able to get out of bed the next day, I felt comforted. At least I wasn’t the only one feeling like I’d been working part-time as a crash test dummy.)
The problem is, many of us can do activities that feel “fine” as we do them, but later we suffer the consequences of our efforts.
Choosing the Right Fitness Program
Keeping your expectations and ultimate workout goals in mind, here are a few quick tips for choosing a program that’s right for you:
- Choose classes or DVDs that are either specifically for those with fibromyalgia, arthritis, or limited mobility, or ones that make accommodations for these challenges.
- At all times, pace yourself. Begin any new fitness routine gently.
- Respect your own physical and fitness level limits. Adjust as needed to the moves you see on the DVD or in a class.
- To prevent injury, remember to use proper body mechanics as you move. Pay attention to your posture (spinal alignment), breathing (don’t hold your breath!), and overall body form.
- Select a variety of programs and/or DVDs. Try new things often and continuously add to your list of programs that you like.
- Give a new routine enough time to see if it will work for your needs. You don’t have to love it. Falling in “like” with a program is just fine … and it takes time.
- If your gym class or DVD fitness instructor sports a crew cut, wears army boots, blows a whistle, and says that everyone is “namby-pamby,” you may wish to select something else….
I’ve mentioned my own less-than ideal fitness experiences before both here and in my book, FibroWHYalgia. One thing I’ve learned – if I had it to do over again, I’d definitely take things at an easier pace. At the time, I wanted to feel better and I wanted it fast. Strengthening and toning the body does not happen quickly. My impatience, along with unrealistic expectations, caused me to be needlessly frustrated with my progress. Thankfully, I didn’t quit or sustain an injury.
Choosing options to try can be as easy as visiting your local library. Public libraries often offer a variety of fitness DVDs available to check out. That way, you can experiment risk-free before you choose to buy.
Here’s another tip about selecting a DVD. Don’t worry if the voice of the fitness trainer or the background music isn’t ideal. It’s common to find that once a routine becomes, um, routine – hearing the same things over and over can be quite annoying or irritating. Once you know the routine well enough, you can simply mute the sound and do the movements to our own preferred soundtrack. It’s fun to workout to your favorite playlist on your mp3 or player of choice.
By practicing patience, kindness (in self-talk), persistence, and dedication, your gentle fitness routine will incrementally strengthen your body in healthy ways.
While I’ve tried dozens, here are a few of my favorite DVD choices. I personally use all of these – I like variety!
Fibroga®: This is probably the best option for anyone who feels they are at a beginning fitness level. This program has been developed by fibromyalgia expert, Karen Groves, to provide slow, gentle, and modified yoga-like moves that can be done from a chair. Her encouraging “been there” approach is particularly helpful for beginners.
T-Tapp: Teresa Tapp’s background as an exercise physiologist and a nutritional counselor led her to develop preventative wellness workouts designed for all fitness levels. T-Tapp is, “a series of copyrighted, sequential movements designed to put the body in proper functional alignment.” I’ve personally been doing T-Tapp exercises (using the same DVD!) for more than ten years. With ample choices to select from, click on the STORE tab and I’d recommend the MORE Rehab Program to start.
Want a dose of enthusiasm? Review the wealth of Success Stories on this site and you’ll soon say, “Yes, I can!”
Leslie Sansone: Leslie, also known as the Walk at Home fitness expert, has developed an assortment of walking DVDs geared for all fitness levels. Some come with resistance bands right inside the case. These DVDs can be ordered online, or picked up at Target. Whenever they’re on sale, I pick up multiple copies as they make great gifts for fitness accountability buddies.
Leslie’s approach is encouraging, supportive, and relatable. She often reminds her viewers to move at their own pace and within their own personal limitations.
Additionally, if funds allow, you may wish to invest in a rebounder (aka a mini-trampoline), an elliptical machine, free weights, resistance bands, or other non-impact home gym equipment. I purchased my rebounder at a discount store more than a dozen years ago and still use it daily. I find the stress-relieving benefits and the boost to my lymphatic system invaluable.
Of course, there are a few downsides to working out at home. If you’re the type who does best with an accountability partner and encouragement from others, then maybe a gym class or trainer might be a better choice. And, if you’re in an environment where you lack either privacy or space, you may have a few hurdles to work around.
Hurdles come frequently. It’s the “overcoming” of them that takes a bit of effort. When it becomes your priority and greatest desire to move away from the pain you’re in – even into an unknown scenario – then you’ll see your plans come to fruition.
You don’t have to know what will happen, you just have to be willing to take the initiative to try something new and then adapt to changes as needed.
Think you lack motivation to start a routine of your own? Check out this Motivation Article and see if you can get a jumpstart on creating a program that’s just right for you.
And, of course … remember to jump in gently!
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.